LONDON - The United States extended their long reign in Olympic women's basketball by claiming their fifth successive gold medal with an 86-50 rout of France at the London Games on Saturday.
With Candace Parker leading the way, the Americans extended their Olympic winning streak to 41 games dating back 20 years to their bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
"We know how hard we have to work to make it look easy," said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma, whose team went 8-0 with an average victory margin of more than 34 points a game.
"We take great pride in our basketball programme. The expectation is to win and we take it very seriously."
The U.S. used a 9-0 run to build a 12-point halftime lead and then blew the game open by scoring a remarkable 19 unanswered points in the third quarter to lead by 30.
France, who were playing in their first women's Olympic basketball final, took the silver medal, while Australia earlier claimed the bronze with an 83-74 victory over Russia.
The French kept it close in the first quarter of the final, trailing 20-15 going into the second quarter after holding an early 13-11 lead.
Sparked by Parker, who scored off offensive rebounds and at the front of fast breaks in totalling 11 points in the second quarter, the Americans went into intermission with a 37-25 lead.
With Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul of the U.S. men's team cheering them on, the U.S. women came out after the break and applied full court pressure, which rattled France and sparked the massive 19-point run that padded the lead to 62-32 as the European side went nearly six minutes without scoring.
Parker scored 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the U.S. attack, while Sandrine Gruda and Edwige Lawson-Wade scored 12 points each for France.
"This has been a dream of mine since I laid on the couch and watched (the U.S. team) in 1996," said Parker, who had struggled with inconsistency in the tournament. "Everybody has their moment.
"It was just mindset. Playing to win, not to not lose. Just going out there giving it your all and living with the result. That is my biggest hangup mentally, going out there and being hesitant."
U.S. captain Sue Bird added 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and Diana Taurasi scored nine points and handed out six assists.
French coach Pierre Vincent said his team, which went 7-0 to reach the final, learned a lot from the masterclass they received from the U.S. team in the gold game.
"They are quicker, more skilled. They have more knowledge on offence and defence," he said.
"I think my team is exhausted and we play with our limits. They show us the way to go to improve ourselves and come back to the next Olympics, and I hope to play them again in the next Olympics."
(Additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Greg Stutchbury and Nigel Hunt)